Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fast Thoughts - A Goodly Number Of Reviews

DAREDEVIL #101 - For the last two years, this had always been the one Marvel Comic I could always count on enjoying. Part of this is because the creative team, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, were stolen away from DC Comics where they had an established track-record of being able to do good, gritty street-level stories. The other part of this was that Daredevil somehow managed to remain free of the contagious stupidity that infected almost every other Marvel title, thanks to countless, endless crossovers that promised to break the Internet in half.

I far these salad days may be over based on this last page.

I've only broadly been keeping up with what has been going on in New Avengers, but the short version is that relatively new criminal "The Hood" is making a bid to become the new Kingpin. So far, his plans have been limited to attacking Tigra (who, curiously, did not fight back against the man assaulting her, despite having always been one of the most temperamental of Avengers) and this apparent attempt to bring down Daredevil baddy Mister Fear.

I don't know how this is going unnoticed in Tony Stark's brave new SHIELD-run world. Perhaps The Powers That Be are too busy hassling the registered superheroes over paperwork and cracking down on unregistered superheroes to keep an eye out for this sort of thing?

Ignoring that, this issue is more of the same fine work that we've come to expect from Lark and Brubaker. I can only hope that The Hood's time here will be brief and not a precursor to a longer storyline tying into whatever Brian Michael Bendis is doing with his latest man-crush character.

GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #6 - I find myself at a loss as to how describe this series other than to say that this is easily the best Green Arrow story in years. What Andy Diggle has presented here is a portrait of Green Arrow at his purest.

Diggle has managed the amazing task of retelling a classic origin story that has - for good reason - remained largely unchanged since the Golden Age of Comics while modernizing some of the trappings. He has taken the past continuity of not only Green Arrow's origins but of several key Green Arrow stories and added elements to this origin that will go on to foreshadow future adventures. What is most impressive is that he has done this in a way that is easily accessible to new readers while speaking to the old-fans like myself.

But even those words do little to convey just how perfectly Diggle has captured the essence of the character of Oliver Queen; who he is and what he becomes. And it certainly does nothing to display the skill of artist Jock, whose talented line-work has made this book as wonderful to look at as it is to read.

I think the only thing that can possibly convey the beauty of both the writing and the art is a scan of this page.

THIS is Green Arrow. He is Robin Hood in the modern world. The defender of the defenseless. The savior of the oppressed. The man who never gives up no matter what the odds are against him. The man who flips Evil the bird and then tries the impossible, rather than bargain or beg favors from it. The one who stands up and says "no".

He is all that. And a damned good showman to boot!

This is my Green Arrow and I will miss him until someone at DC has the good sense to put Diggle and Jock to work on the character on a monthly basis.

HELLBLAZER #237 - With the 20th Anniversary of John Constantine's monthly book's first publication fast approaching, it seems a fitting time to reflect upon what has come before while considering how things are now. This is ironic considering that despite the many changes this book has gone over two decades the state of things is remarkably close to how they were twenty years ago.

Andy Diggle made Hellblazer his own book from the very first issue and set about seeing John reborn. This was necessary since the last substantial run on the book, penned by Lucifer writer Mike Carey, ended with John alienating nearly every ally and friend he had left, most of the London magical scene and John destroying his entire storage-unit of magic books and artifacts. With none of his resources and connections, but all of his enemies and his tendency to attract trouble when he isn't actively looking for it, John underwent a magical rebirth of sorts and emerged looking slightly-older and somewhat-wiser but still the same loveable rogue he was way back during the Jamie Delano run.

The similarities between Diggle's run thus far and Delano's run extends past their portrayal of John as a character. Delano's stories drew heavily upon the history and legend of magic in England as well as the theme that while there are horrible things in the Earth, the true horror lies in the hearts of Mankind. Diggle has established the same themes in his Joyride storyline, as a dark magician uses the Druidic magic of England to develop his own power while simultaneously corrupting dozens of relative innocents by promising them the power to get revenge on their enemies.

I make this comparison as praise for Diggle's ability to exploit the continuity and themes that have come before him in order to tell new stories that ring true to the original intent of Hellblazer - not to suggest that he is ripping-off a long-established writer. Far from it.

Indeed, Diggle's work here is the work of a true master. Like all the great Hellblazer writers before him, his work has a unique voice all it's own and yet it still seems as if his vision of John Constantine - drawn as it was from the works of others - is true and definitive. I miss Mike Carey's work on the title but if he were to return, I would miss Andy Diggle just as much.

This skillful writing is partnered with an equally skillful artist. Leonardo Manco is a perfect choice for Hellblazer, which requires an artist who can depict in equal parts the horrific fiends and terrors of the Abyss as well as the more mundane horrors, such as a horrific hit-and-run accident and the facial expressions of an astrally-possessed punk, who finds out that he raped his own sister while he "slept".

Vertigo Comics longest running title is in good hands. I highly recommend that if you're not already reading Hellblazer, you start next month with #238 and the new arc.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #10 - I was, like many of you, nervous when the news came out that the Superman of Kingdom Come would become a part of the JSA team for some time. Kingdom Come was, of course, one of the best graphic novels written in the last twenty years and a tribute to the ideals of DC Comics, America and heroism in general.

Given the attempt to recapture that same magic with the lackluster The Kingdom mini-series to say nothing of the varying levels of success with which certain elements of the KC Universe have been added into the reality of New Earth (a time-displaced Thom Kallor as the Starman of three worlds and three times, Ma Hunkle's granddaughter as a new Red Tornado, Damage now wearing the costume of "The Atom" among others), we fans can be forgiven for being somewhat skeptical of this storyline.

We can be forgiven... but we can also be relieved.

For with Alex Ross assisting with the story and Geoff Johns (the one writer at DC Comics as trustworthy than Mark Waid in regards to respecting the past of the company) handling the writing chores, this story thus far is very true to the spirit of Kingdom Come.

Ross also contributes a few painted panels, but the lion's share of the artwork in this issue is ably illustrated by Dale Eaglesham, who is - as ever - a master of both high-action and facial expression. He is one of the best visual storytellers in the business and even during the confusing moment in which Superman must fight his way past the entire JSA, change into his costume and rush to save a woman attempting suicide, the progression of action is smooth and logical despite occurring in a matter of seconds.

This story isn't really a sequel to Kingdom Come. And as good as it is thus far, I doubt very much that this story may prove to be the equal of Kingdom Come. But taken on its' own merits, it is a damn fine story about Truth, Justice and The American Way. And that is all that it needs to be.

TALES OF THE SINESTRO CORPS: SUPERMAN-PRIME - Based on what I've seen on the message boards, you either hate The Sinestro Corps War or you love it.

Me? I love it. I love it as a brazen Green Lantern geek who has always dreamt of a story in which Sinestro gathered an army of like-minded individuals and set to spreading terror across the universe. I love it as a comic history geek who recognizes the numerous references to Alan Moore's work on Tales of the Green Lantern Corps as well as his unpublished proposal for a story involving the end of the DC Universe titled "Twilight of the Superheroes".

And this issue - despite some erratic artwork caused by two artists with dissimilar styles - I even love it because it has given Geoff Johns a chance to do what he does best and do something he wasn't allowed to do during Infinite Crisis. Namely, he has given us a look inside the head of Superman Prime a.k.a. the boy formerly known as Superboy Prime.

Johns spells out Prime's origin in detail. How he was the one superhero on his Earth. How he finally won the love of the girl of his dreams and had a chance to be the hero he wished to be as a child. How all of that was destroyed and how he sacrificed everything in order to save the multiverse and give it a chance to be reborn. All of this gives us an insight into his character that was lacking during Infinite Crisis. We now see how an idealistic young man - a Superman in the making - could come to be so filled with anger at the universe and become convinced that he had to make things right by any means necessary.

We also see how very different he is from our Supermen and the difference between them. While our Superman relishes the gratitude that others bestow upon him for his good deeds, he does not expect it. Superman Prime is still a lost child seeking the praise and approval of the parents and loved ones he lost a lifetime ago through the teaming masses he is working to "save". He is not worthy of the name Superman. He isn't even worthy of the name "man"

It is a credit to Johns' skill as a writer that he can write a tale in which we can feel both sympathy and contempt for the same character for the same reasons. And it is that level of writing which has made the entirety of The Sinestero Corps War a real treat.

1 comment:

  1. Daredevil 101
    I admit that I share your fears about the new contender for Fisk's crown seen in the last page of Daredevil... Possibly because I don't dig what is going on in New Avengers, and so far the Hood doesn't strike me as a grand villain. I wonder if Brubaker has better plans for him, or by putting Turk by his side he's already underlining the Hood's lesser category? (even if Turk, you know has gotten smarter than he used to be). While not enthusiastic about his presence, I'll wait to see how the character is played: he certainly looks more serious as drawn by Lark, and I trust Brubaker.
    Li'l Riding Red Hood's presence is my only complaint about the issue. I particularly liked the tender night visit to poor Milla (Damn, Mr. fear has engineered a real Catch-22, hasn't he?)